Ofer - Stone Throwing, Incriminators
Translation: Marganit W.
"This is prison: it hurts in the foot and in the heart", says Mujib pointing at the chains on the prisoners' feet.
Two years ago, people came to his house in Beit-Umar and told him that his brother had been beaten to death by soldiers and that his body was lying on the road. Mujib rushed to the place and found his brother lying in the middle of the road, bleeding from the head. While he was trying to lift his injured brother to take him to hospital, soldiers came and took the two brothers to jail.
Mujib spent two months in jail. Since then he has been on trial on charges of "throwing objects" (as specified in today's docket). However, the supposedly attacked soldiers, who are the witnesses in the case, have never shown up in court. Thus, with the witnesses absent from court, the trial is postponed again and again. Mujib, who has no choice and whose time is apparently of no consequence, shows up "like clockwork" once, sometimes twice a month. He leaves home at dawn, travels from Beit-Umar to Bethlehem, then to Ramallah, then to Bitunyia checkpoint, then walks on foot along the narrow dirt road to the 'corral' at the entrance to the courthouse, where Palestinians (and we) gather for a security check. The incriminators, however, never show up. The trial is postponed and Mujib has to retrace his 3-hour long slog home.
Before entering the court we made the acquaintance of the officer "responsible for admitting people into the court" (as defined by the Prison Authority). Asked if we had sent a fax, we said No. We were asked which trial we came to attend and replied that it is our right to be present at any trial we choose. The officer used his phone to consult someone, then came back to us enlightened. "Are you Hava?" - "No, we are not Hava..."
Only when the prison guards were getting impatient, did he start processing us.
The trial we randomly chose to attend was presided by Judge Shlomo Katz.
"Today, the judge is in top form," the interpreter says to one of the
An atmosphere of carnival prevails in the court: several attorneys mill around the hall, conversing with their clients; the detainees conduct animated discussions with their relatives who are seated far from their loved ones and send them words of endearment and encouragement. The judge was relaxed and patient: even when he had to thump his fist on the table to shush the audience, he could not stop the commotion and people continued to walk about and talk.
Young detainees were ushered in in groups of three. Most were in their early twenties, dressed in brown prison uniform. The hearings lasted a few minutes, and then they were led out when the judge informed each of them - addressing them by name - that the hearing was postponed to Wed. June 9.
Ashraf Ali Muhammad Sabrana, accused of "membership and activity" [in an unlawful organization].
Ibrahim Fathi Muhammad Awad, accused of "producing and throwing an incendiary object"
Issam Haled Issa Abu-Hashem, charged with "membership and activity".
Tawfiq Wafiq Tawfiq Zalha, accused of 'terrorist and other activities'.
Then there were many others whose names and charges I did not copy from the docket.
The security officers kept leading the detainees in and out of the hall, as if they were a homogenous group and not individuals with hopes, volitions, dreams and perhaps disappointments. They all received the same treatment from the system, the same sentence, and they will all gather in the same place before the same judge, in two weeks' time, perhaps more broken-spirited and desperate, but dressed in the same uniform.